No outside experts on planning reviews

Reviews into planning decisions in seven local authorities across six counties were launched by the last government after complaints about alleged irregularities.

The Irish Examiner has learnt that a decision to appoint outside experts to oversee inquiries was put on hold by the current Government because of a fear that the costs could amount to a “runaway train”.

Planning experts from abroad were even considered but, at a time of budget cuts, it was feared that seven separate inquiries could end up costing the taxpayer between €100,000 and €150,000.

Former environment minister John Gormley, leader of the Green Party, had established the inquiries into decisions by Dublin and Cork city councils, as well as county councils in Carlow, Meath, Galway and Cork and Donegal.

Mr Gormley pledged that external, independent experts would assess the local authority decisions.

However, the hiring of independent experts was put on hold in June after the Government took power.

Internal department officials are now assessing issues around the authorities, including the application of planning legislation, policies, and guidance within local authority development plans.

It is understood the seven reviews do not focus in the main on irregularities involving elected members. Instead, there has been a focus on complaints by local planning groups, technical issues such as timelines for planning permissions, and matters such as high-rise buildings in urban areas.

It was expected the reviews would be completed at the end of this month. They will now be completed by the end of April.


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